Donate to RNS

In Trump they trust

The 'hold your nose and vote' theory of why white evangelicals went for Donald Trump is in shambles.

(RNS) — In the fall of 2006, a public stir was created by the documentary “Jesus Camp,” about a charismatic summer camp in North Dakota that taught children to use “their prophetic gifts” to “take back America for Christ.”

In the film’s most striking scene, Camp Director Becky Fischer set up a cardboard cutout of then-President George W. Bush and had the children welcome, bless, and (in tongues) “do some warfare over” him. 

A still of Becky Fischer, center, from the documentary “Jesus Camp.” Video screengrab

To outsiders, it looked like worship. 

These days, it’s President Trump who looks like the object of evangelical worship. After Election Day, Paula White prayed in tongues for angels from Africa and South America to bring him victory. Eric Metaxas said he’d lay down his life in the battle.

“By now I hope you can see that this is far beyond a battle of politics,” tweeted the Christian author Lance Wallnau. “We are up against a malevolent and demonic agenda aimed to destroy the global force for kingdom expansion that is America.”

If you want to keep up with this crowd, check out Messiah College Professor John Fea’s blog, The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Fea calls them “court evangelicals,” but at this point they’re more like Trump’s apostles.

And after He, as the Law determined, was cast out of the White House by the Electoral College, they were all in one accord in one place. And out of Heaven there was a sound like unto a mighty digital wind, and they began to speak in other tongues as Newsmax and OAN gave them utterance, but Fox not so much. And the Libs mocked them, and said they were deluded. But there were dwelling in the Land many Americans who hearkened unto them. And they, continuing daily with one accord on social media, did preach His return four years thence with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with the people.                                                                                                                                           — MAGActs 2

Anyway, so much for the transactional theory of white evangelicals’ support of Trump. To wit: While they disapprove of his “lifestyle” and manner, and give him low marks for personal piety, they are more than happy to render their support in return for his meeting their policy agenda on judges, religious liberty, Israel and, let us say, the cultural status quo ante.

But if that was the art of their deal, by now they’d be moving on, girding their loins for the next Democratic presidency. Instead, they’re doubling and tripling down on Trump staying in office by whatever means necessary.

OK, not all of them. Robert Jeffress has allowed as how, albeit “a bitter pill to swallow,” Joe Biden is president-elect.

But have the others decided that Trump’s lifestyle is just fine, that the Bible-hefter of St. John’s Episcopal Church is pious after all, that the man who just informed RNS that he is a “non-denominational Christian” has actually become one of them?

In my humble opinion, nope. It’s something else.

Half a century ago, as the Vietnam War raged and the population flocked to the Sunbelt, conservatives began dreaming of a majority-Republican country. Richard Nixon’s Silent Majority morphed into Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, and the religious right was born.


RELATED: The Trumpian breach of faith


The majoritarian dream looked like it was coming into being in Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill. But then it began to fade.

Bill Clinton became president and, even as evangelicals enabled Republicans to gain control of Congress, the numbers began to go south. Conservative churches stopped growing. The Nones were the hottest demographic in town. When same-sex marriage joined abortion as a constitutional right, the Culture War seemed lost.

And then Donald Trump revived the dream. Sure, his approval ratings were always under water. Sure, he lost to Hillary Clinton by three million votes, to Joe Biden by seven million.

If you believe the numbers. But listen to the man. He won by a landslide, won all states. The election was stolen by a fraud of biblical proportions. Trump and his minions say so. The majority is back!

Rod Dreher, the conservative author and blogger whose obsession with wokeness is out of control, lives nevertheless in the real world of numbers, and in the real world of traditional Christianity. The other day he felt obliged to issue an extended warning to his fellow religious conservatives titled, “Donald Trump Is Not The Messiah.”

I’m afraid, Rod, you’re whistling past the graveyard.